Friday, 2 October 2015

5,600 could lose free school meals under Tory plans - Guest Post from James Wright

Thousands of children across Norwich could lose their right to a free school meal under Conservative plans to review the scheme.

Universal free school meals offer every infant child a healthy meal at lunchtime, which saves families more than £400 per child per year.

Evidence shows where children have been given a free school dinner, their results improved compared to youngsters who didn't get one.

These academic improvements were most marked among children from the poorest backgrounds.
There are currently 5,631 children who receive free school meals across Norwich, who would lose them if the Conservatives follow through with plans reported in the media recently.

James Wright said: "If this goes ahead, the Tories will show they are willing to take an axe to the education budget at the expense of children's learning.

"By scrapping this policy they would take food off the plates of thousands children across Norwich who now benefit from a free healthy meal at lunchtime.

"The Liberal Democrats fought tooth and nail to get this through in Coalition because we want every child to have the best possible start in life and be able to concentrate in class, and all the evidence shows that a healthy meal helps with that.

"Instead of further investing in our children, the Tories are turning up at the school gate and stealing their lunch money. Rather than scaling back this policy, they should be extending it to all Primary children."

All evidence on the benefits of universal free school meals comes from the independent evaluation of the 2009 pilots:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/184047/DFE-RR227.pdf
The School Food Plan, written by independent school food reviewers Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, recommended introducing free school meals for all primary school children:
http://www.schoolfoodplan.com/plan/